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October 5, 2005

SCS.comAfter watching this past week's games, most of the major conferences have sorted themselves out nicely. There are only twelve undefeated teams left spread among five BCS conferences (the Big East lost theirs last this week thanks to Virginia Tech), and no more than five of those teams will finish the year undefeated. It appears that this will be another year where one or two one-loss teams will make the Rose Bowl, and the BCS will be vital in figuring out which team is most deserving. Every week the major conferences seem to have at least one major game with national title implications. Based on the first two weeks of conference play, this week's top games could effectively be conference or division title games in the middle of October! The winners of the following top three games will certainly be conference title frontrunners for the next few weeks, so the BCS implications are obvious. Two important games I did not select below will be covered more in the conference breakdowns, but Ohio at Bowling Green will be the biggest test for BGSU in the MAC regular season and California at UCLA will determine USC's biggest competition for the Pac-10. That being said, here are your top three games of the week!

Oklahoma. The mere word put Texas fans in fear the past five years. This was the big game that always vaulted Oklahoma to national championship chances and Big XII title games. This year Texas again has more talent and will be favored to win the game, but Oklahoma is truly rebuilding for the first time under Bob Stoops. Texas proved themselves four weeks ago in the Horseshoe, and that game as it turns out was a bigger game than this one. Texas understands that losing to Oklahoma would probably eliminate them from the Big XII title game once again, and I really cannot see them passing up on this opportunity. Bob Stoops can out-coach Mack Brown all he wants, but Texas will score at least 20 with Vince Young at the helm and that will be more than enough with Oklahoma's offensive woes. I'll take Texas by 21 in a game of revenge and national statement. If Oklahoma wins this game, it will perhaps be the greatest upset in this series!

Two weeks and nine conference games into Big Ten play, and eight different teams have lost a conference game (Illinois lost two!). Wisconsin has knocked Michigan and Indiana out of the lead and gets a relative rest this week at Northwestern, but Ohio State has to travel to Penn State to take on JoePa's fantastic freshmen. The Nittany Lions have never been an easy out for the Buckeyes, but this is the first year in this decade that Paterno has real national talent in the plain uniforms again. Unfortunately for Penn State, Ohio State will not be overlooking them for Michigan State, and they have had two weeks to prepare for the Lions. Ohio State always comes out cold in their first road game (just like the other Big Ten power Michigan), so Penn State could grab a lead and hold it most of the game. As impressive as Penn State's win over Minnesota was last week, Ohio State has a national championship caliber defense and will not let Penn State score 30, let alone 44 this week. A couple of breaks (read: more Buckeye fumbles in red zone attempts) and Penn State could pull the upset and become a surprise conference title favorite and national title darkhorse. I'll take OSU by seven, though, as I really doubt Tressel will waste the extra week to prepare for a hostile road game.

The SEC's Florida, Tennessee, and LSU all dropped from the undefeated ranks and the top ten early this season in conference showdowns. Tennessee has recovered from the loss to Florida and was helped by Alabama this week in perhaps gaining control of their own destiny in the SEC East again. The Volunteers must get by Georgia this week at home or else they will probably be permanently removed from the SEC title race and BCS bowl possibilities. Rick Clausen looked good last week, but Georgia is a whole different test. Will Georgia falter like every other top ten SEC team before them in a big conference battle? I'll take Georgia after only watching their early big victories, but it will be very close. Georgia by 3, and maybe some overtime!

Conference Breakdowns

Florida State and Virginia Tech have already distanced themselves by not losing in conference play, but they are also fighting for the Rose Bowl as both are undefeated after big out-of-conference games against Miami and West Virginia. This week Wake Forest has a chance to shock the world in Tallahassee and take the division lead, but I would be surprised if FSU's great defense let the Demon Deacons even score more than once this game. Virginia and Boston College are playing an inter-divisional battle which will eliminate one of them from the conference title hunt, and that is the game to watch this week.

Oklahoma and Texas will gain all of the national attention, but there is another game between undefeated conference teams this week which merits attention. Nebraska hosts Texas Tech's high powered offense this week as well. This game has a lot of pride for the North division riding on it, as Colorado and Nebraska are the only really good looking North division teams, and Texas Tech is simply a mediocre South division team. My title of mediocre will certainly be dropped if the Red Raiders can come out of Nebraska with a win, and Texas will certainly take notice of the winner of this battle. No other conference game stands out, but Kansas at Kansas State should be entertaining for the rivalry value.

Big East
West Virginia at Rutgers: I never thought this would be a battle for conference leadership with South Florida on their tails, but here they stand going into this week. West Virginia looked decent against Virginia Tech, but the loss should rile up the Mountaineers this week and give them plenty of momentum heading into the battle with Louisville in a couple weeks, which will probably be for the conference BCS berth assuming South Florida comes back to reality.

Big Ten
Other than Ohio State at Penn State, there is not much here this week other than Minnesota looking to rebound at Michigan and Indiana making sure Illinois stays in the Big Ten cellar. Iowa at Purdue was supposed to be Purdue's toughest conference battle coming into this season, but losses to Notre Dame and Minnesota have taken Purdue right out of the Big Ten race, while Iowa looked embarrassed at the hands of Ohio State two weeks ago. Whoever comes out of this game has an outside chance at the league title, but they will need a lot of help and solid play down the road to get a BCS berth.

Conference USA
Not much going on here, but Houston at Tulane should be the game of the week. Houston needs to recover from their 0-1 conference record quickly if they wish to have a hope in this conference race. UAB also looks good this week going into their game against SMU.

There are three very interesting games this week in conference play, and all four undefeated teams in the conference play each other this week. There is also an elimination game for two one-loss teams. Miami and Northern Illinois can trade war stories about their games at The Big House and The Horseshoe, but both need to recover from their first MAC loss if they hope to keep up with the leaders as determined by this week's other two big games in the MAC. Eastern Michigan should be exposed at Toledo, and Ohio will have a tough road trying to win in Bowling Green, but don't underestimate EMU or OU after their tough preparation in out-of-conference games. Bowling Green and Toledo were my favorites for the MAC title game, and the opportunity to knock off their only other undefeated division-mates will be big motivation for this week. We will know more about the MAC than any other conference after this week of play.

Georgia at Tennessee is the headliner, but there is one other big game in the conference this week. LSU will try to bounce back from all their early-season woes against a surprising Vanderbilt team needing just two more wins to be bowl eligible. Vanderbilt gets to host this game, and I wouldn't be surprised if they grab more national headlines after this week.

Well that's all I have for this week, so let me wrap it up with the usual ending. Have a great week!

Top 3 Games of the Week record to date: 5-10 (0-3 last week)

Fitzy's Top 10 - Week 6
1. USC (4-0) NC
2. Texas (4-0) NC
3. Virginia Tech (5-0) NC
4. Georgia (4-0) +1
5. Ohio State (3-1) +2
6. Florida State (4-0) NC
7. Alabama (5-0) NR
8. Tennessee (3-1) +1
9. California (5-0) NR
10. Miami (3-1) NC
Dropped Out: #4 Florida (4-1), #8 Michigan State (4-1).

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